While Barack Obama is likely to have to give up his Blackberry after being sworn in as President (owing mainly to a lack of email security, as well as record keeping under the Presidential Records Act), he will have a laptop on his desk in the Oval Office, a first. And he just finished up the first-ever Presidential YouTube address, which will become a regular feature.
It already has 630,000 views, probably 620,000 more than those weekly radio addresses which air at 4am. The even more interesting development is Valerie Jarrett's address at change.gov, a completely transparent update on who will be leading key agencies, which has NINETY-EIGHT THOUSAND VIEWS. This is a wonky and fairly dull address about ethics requirements and lobbyists, but because it's being made widely available and people are hungering for knowledge about the incoming Administration, it's getting widespread attention.
I find this to be very significant. Obama enters office with 3.1 million donors and an email list of 10 million. How these lists are put to use and allowed to engage with the Administration will signal how much the President-elect will live up to his expression that change begins from the bottom up. By using these Web tools, Obama can bypass traditional filters and deliver action items to his audience on issues can have relevance and immediacy.
Transition officials call it Obama 2.0 — an ambitious effort to transform the president-elect's vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress.
"He's built the largest network anyone has ever seen in politics, and congressional Republicans are clueless about the communications shift that has happened," Democratic strategist Joe Trippi proclaims. The results, he says, "will be amazing to watch."
During his 21-month campaign, Obama built a list of 3.1 million contributors and over 10 million supporters who helped power his victories over Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain. In addition to helping raise a staggering $660 million, the campaign's Web effort reinforced his message and themes, responded to political attacks and created volunteer social networks that served as the basis for his field operation.
Obama's team is determining how best to convert his army of online activists into a viral lobbying and communications machine. Staffers are reluctant to discuss specifics, but Obama clearly is poised to become the first truly "wired" president of the digital age.
For legal and privacy reasons, Obama's campaign list must be kept separate from White House operations. Aides are figuring out if that list should be run through the Democratic National Committee or as a freestanding political entity that will eventually become his 2012 re-election committee.
But transition officials have already begun a new digital outreach effort, based on the campaign model, aimed at supporters and others interested in being connected to the activities of the Obama White House.
The transition operation has a new Web site, http://www.change.gov, designed for anyone who wants to post a message of congratulations, offer suggestions for the new administration or apply for a government job. People are invited to submit their names and e-mail addresses, with the goal of creating a new list for the president-elect to tap when he wants to communicate directly about a program he's promoting or seek help urging members of Congress to support legislation he's proposed.
"Just imagine what happens when a congressman comes back to his district and 500 people are lined up for his town hall meeting because they got an e-mail from Obama urging them to attend," said Thomas Gensemer, managing partner of Blue State Digital which designed Obama's campaign Web site and change.gov.